A Liberal Approach to the Obesity Epidemic

Public Affairs Quarterly 22 (3):269-288 (2008)
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At least half of American adults are overweight or obese, and the number may be as high as two-thirds. These facts have spurred anti-obesity campaigns, and those campaigns have provoked difficult questions in public health and population ethics. Should the government merely inform people about the risks of unhealthy food? May it try to change behavior by taxing unhealthy food? May it ban some foods outright? This paper proposes that we should answer these questions using familiar liberal principles. The principles show that several common arguments for obesity interventions are flawed. The principles also highlight several that succeed, and those arguments point toward a new proposal for food labeling and some potential market interventions.
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